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Advanced Lecture

dynamic range The ratio of the loudest (undistorted) signal to that of the quietest (discernible) signal in a unit or system as expressed in decibels (dB). Dynamic range is another way of stating the maximum S/N ratio. With reference to signal processing equipment, the maximum output signal is restricted by the size of the power supplies, i.e., it cannot swing more voltage than is available.

with the best noise floors being down around -94 dBu. SMALLEST POSSIBLE LEVEL Professional-grade analog signal processing equipment can output maximum levels of +26 dBu. This gives a maximum dynamic range of 120 dB – almost the range of HUMAN HEARING!   . While the NOISE FLOOR of the unit determines the minimum output signal.

  dBFS means "decibels relative to full scale". . It is an abbreviation for decibel amplitude levels in digital systems which have a maximum available peak level. like PCM encoding.

 VU Reference Level: An analog representation of digital signal (Standard setting would be "20 Ref" resulting in a -20dB FS = 0 VU) VU Graphic Bar Level Meter: Indicates VU level of left and right digital audio.   .

Maximum Peak Level Meter: Displays maximum or peak level of the audio program material.  Peak Program Meter: Area above the main bar indicating peak program levels.More on Metering  VU Numeric Level Meter: Indicates VU level of left and right digital audio.  .



 VU meters are designed to represent the perceived loudness of a passage of music. measuring in volume units. and the reference level is defined in the product's manual.   . The product is designed so that the best signal quality is obtained when the meter rarely goes above nominal. The markings are often in dB instead of "VU".

 . but some standardize to 0 VU = −10 dBV. the nominal level varies. the nominal level is 0 VU = +4 dBu. In consumer level equipment. In professional recording and sound reinforcement gear.

Pro   The difference between consumer and pro equipment revolves around the cost required to create larger power supplies and output higher levels consumer levels can be generated by batterypowered gear.Consumer vs. but pro levels require power supplies .

The difference between the internal noise and the maximum output level is the device's DYNAMIC RANGE.   . Nominal level is the operating level at which an electronic signal processing device is designed to operate. Electronic circuits are limited in the maximum signal they can output and the electronic noise they add to the signal.

the dynamic range of the signal is reduced. In audio. leaving the headroom as the difference between nominal and maximum output.  . The nominal level is the level that these devices were designed to operate at. signal-to-noise ratio. for BEST dynamic range. is usually defined as the difference between the nominal level and the noise floor. a related measurement.More on Nominal Level  When a signal is chained improperly through many devices.

 The headroom measurement defines how far the peak levels can stray from the nominal measured level before clipping. The difference between the peaks and the average for a given signal is the crest factor. It is important to realize that the measured level is a time average.  . meaning that the peaks of audio signals regularly exceed the measured average level.

calculated from the peak amplitude of the waveform divided by the RMS value of the waveform. The crest factor or peak-to-average ratio (PAR) or peak-to-average power ratio (PAPR) is a measurement of a waveform. .



 0 dBFS is assigned to the maximum possible level in a digital signal A signal that reaches 50% of the maximum level would peak at -6 dBFS. There are NO Positive Numbers  . All peak measurements will be negative numbers. for instance.

Dynamic Range Comparison  AM Radio 20-30 dB   FM Radio 40-50 dB Vinyl microgroove phonograph records typically yield 55-65 dB. though the first play of the higher-fidelity outer rings can achieve a dynamic range of 70 dB. .

while condenser microphones are limited by the overloading of their associated electronic circuitry. Practical considerations of acceptable distortion levels in microphones combined with typical practices in a recording studio result in a useful operating range of 125 dB.  . A dynamic microphone has up to 140 dB dynamic range.

The peak of professional analog magnetic recording tape technology reached 90 dB dynamic range in the midband frequencies at 3% distortion. Compact Cassette tape performance ranges from 50 to 56 dB depending on tape formulation.[  . or about 80 dB in practical broadband applications.

but the actual dynamic range is usually lower because of overhead from filters that are built into most audio systems. Audio CDs achieve about a 90-dB signal-tonoise ratio. Digital audio at 16-bit resolution has a theoretical dynamic range of 96 dB.  .

 What is the Dynamic Range of a 24-bit recording? 144 dB! (Compared to 96 dB in 16-bit) Limited only by your gear!   .

The SACD format is capable of delivering a dynamic range of 120 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz and an extended frequency response up to 100 kHz.   SACD – 120dB Human ear – 120dB . although most currently available players list an upper limit of 80–90 kHz.

What does it all mean?  The dynamic range from a given signal source is limited by the WEAKEST signal in the chain Mic  Pre-amp  Converter  digital or analog medium Getting closer to 120dB means that our ears will hear the full dynamic range   .